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Home > Support > Family Life > How do I treat my children better when under enormous stress?
Question: How do I treat my children better under enormous amounts of stress? We live far away from all family, my husband works full time and is in a master's program essential for his professional development and mental/emotional well-being, I am in my second half of pregnancy with our third child, homeschool our 8 year old and try to play with our two year old as well. I find myself yelling and screaming at our other two children (especially the oldest) several times in the course of the day. It isn't just the fact that we are homeschooling; it is the pressure of being here for the family, 24/7 with very little other mental, social, emotional or spiritual outlets to refill my "bank". I have attempted adoration, and have been asked to leave because of my two-year-old being noisy, and have only been back by myself for the 5-15 minutes that I can squeeze thanks to friends or my husband being with the kids. I am constantly in the confessional for anger, yelling, losing my temper with my husband or my children. I am feeling disappointed with the lack of spiritual direction in our area when I routinely hear in the confessional little direction, but only platitudes such as "think before you speak" and "try better next time." Am I being too critical? Maybe it is a cop-out on my part, I am expecting a spiritual hammer to come swinging down and knock me out of my bad habits, when what I need to be doing is somehow breaking myself of them on my own. Please help, I am at my wits end, and often feel I can't go on anymore - I struggle between fits of anger and bouts of tears from desperation and disappointment. I am failing my children and my family, and I have to get this turned around for all our sakes.

Dear Mom,

Your letter was simply beautiful. In your willingness to understand your own feelings of confusion and sorrow you have opened yourself up to the scrutiny of others. This speaks sincerely of your childlike love of the Lord and your docility of spirit that allows you to desire above all things to follow the Lord's will and rest in His peace despite the troubles you experience. I appreciate and admire your willingness to address this concern.

It would be wonderful if there was a type of spiritual hammer (as you put it ) that would knock us into submission to the Lord's will. Wouldn't that make things easier? I often think of St. Paul and the spiritual conversion that he experienced. One minute he was an angry man willing to kill others for their belief in Jesus and then within seconds the Lord illuminated his life and he was converted to a great defender of the Faith, eventually suffering martyrdom for this belief. However we must not forget that despite St. Paul's  love of the Lord and his overwhelming desire to follow the Lord's will, he admitted that in the Lord's mercy He had given this great defender of the faith a 'thorn' in his side that tormented and vexed him daily. Many have speculated and waxed poetic about the exact nature of his temptation but I believe we are not to know exactly the temptation as that would somehow draw attention from the real message that the Lord wants us to hear in the holy witness of St. Paul's life.

2 Cor.12:7-10: "Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, 'My  grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Jesus wants us to rest in His strength, His power, and His grace that we might better endure the temptations of this earthly life. In order to rest in this abundant strength we must first admit that we are weak and unable to fight this battle alone. In your humility you have expressed that you seem to be unable to endure the frustrations of your station in life at this time. The stresses and the pressures and the loneliness move you to anger. I have often believed that anger is another way we express a deep sorrow that has been exhausted in tears. When there are no more tears to shed we sometimes become angry. Yet our outbursts are still expressions of sorrow.

Seeking the forgiveness and healing balm of grace that is found only in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful witness of your sincerity and your desire to follow in the Lord's will. The Lord will honor this sincerity and make His grace abundant and sufficient for you. Just as St. Paul tells us, the Lord will illuminate those areas of our life that need attention and He will send the resources and the graces necessary that we might better deal with our temptations.

Does this mean that once we confess a particular sin all is well and we will never be vexed by that temptation again? No. We are human and our human frailty causes us to fall again and again. I am always very moved by the Lord's Passion. It is a powerful message that Jesus fell three times on His journey to the cross of crucifixion. I am equally moved that He allowed another to help Him carry the burden of the cross. I say 'allowed' because the Lord's Passion was a lesson for us. Jesus endured this torture for our benefit. Not only did His Passion and Resurrection open the gates of Heaven for us but it served as a living reminder of all it means to be human and to live within the confines of a human spirit and body. Isaiah 53:12 "Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses."

With all that said let us look at some areas that might help you better resist the temptations that you are facing. I would speak with my husband first and express the sorrows that you are facing each day (you and he are showered continuously with graces owing to the benefit of a Sacramental Marriage and therefore there is a wellspring of untapped resources awaiting you but for the asking). You are a dear and loving mommy and I know that you do not want to be angry with your children and therefore there are certainly issues that may need discussing before you move on to reconcile these temptations. Do not expect too much of yourself and especially work to put into perspective the demands of homeschooling. Keep in mind that when one is homeschooling they are in a sense working a full time job as a teacher. This vocation of teacher takes a higher demand at certain times during the day than does housework for example. Keep close to the Lord in prayer. Find those times to be alone with the Lord. Though Adoration is excellent it may not always be possible. It is for this reason that we must build up our homes as Domestic Churches where we can seek solace when we are not able to worship in front of the Eucharist or at Mass. Find a corner of your home and build a Family Altar. Remember this is as simple as a small shelf for a statue and a place to store your rosaries. Pray the family rosary in the evening. Even if the children fidget or play quietly with their toys in the same room, keep praying the rosary with your dear family. The rosary is a powerful prayer and allows us to follow the Lord's life and the inspired witness of the Blessed Mother. Here again there is an abundant resource of grace awaiting you during this time. Keep holy water in your home. This is a powerful sacramental and helps to encourage and strengthen us (through the Lord's strength) each time we bless ourselves. Read the scriptures daily that are used during the sacrifice of the Mass. Most bulletins print the scriptures for each day of the upcoming week. Read about the lives of the saints and the writings of holy men and women. There is indeed one book that I would highly recommend: I Believe in Love. This is a meditation upon the life of St. Therese, the Little Flower. Seek the counsel of another priest that does not know you. My own brother who is a priest, has told me often that it is good to go to a confessor who does not know you. This gives you an opportunity to get a different perspective. Very beneficial.

Speak with your health care provider and explain the challenges that you are having with regard to having a short temper. It may be that you need some medical intervention (extra vitamins, etc.) that will help with the challenges you are having. We should not always assume that everything we are feeling is strictly related to our spiritual life. Many times throughout pregnancy women become tired and weary due to the changes in their bodies. It is important to speak with those persons who are caring for you and your pregnancy. Get plenty of rest and nourishing food. In fact make your rest, your highest priority along with time for prayer. When a woman is pregnant her body undergoes many normal changes and one of the ways the body deals with these changes is through rest. A nap in the middle of the day is not a sign of laziness but a necessity to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

I admire you and thank you for sharing your letter with this forum. You may have helped someone who needed to read that there are others who feel like she. I will be praying for you everyday on the 4th Glorious Mystery.

Excerpt from I Believe in Love:  "Remember that when we confess our sins before the Lord not only will He repair the evil we have done in ourselves but the evil we have done around us as well." Powerful words from a little saint of love. Jesus we ask that you shower us with the  graces sufficient that will give us a childlike heart of contrition and the wisdom that is of the Holy Spirit to go forward in Your will with peace. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

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